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Champaign County appeals wind decision; Commissioners, neighbors group both object to state ruling on turbines

The Champaign County commissioners will appeal a recent state decision to approve the Buckeye Wind Project, saying the county will contest parts of the decision, including setbacks, use of roads and bridges and decommissioning.

Earlier this year, the Ohio Power Siting Board voted to allow the second phase of the Buckeye Wind Project to move forward. Combined with an earlier first phase, the project would build about 100 turbines across Champaign County.

Officials in Urbana, Union, and Goshen Twp., along with the Champaign County commissioners, have decided to appeal parts of the state’s decision, said Kevin Talebi, Champaign County prosecutor. Talebi said the appeal, approved by commissioners this week, is expected to be filed before the end of the month.

Union Neighbors United, a group of area residents opposed to the project, has also previously said it plans to appeal the state’s decision to the Ohio Supreme Court. Talebi said the county and UNU are concerned with different aspects of the project, and the two groups will file separate appeals.

The first phase of the project was also appealed to the state’s highest court, and in that case the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in favor of the Ohio Power Siting Board, allowing the project to move forward. In the first phase of the project, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote the court’s majority opinion, saying the state board acted within the required regulations to approve the project.

Justice Evelyn Lundberg wrote the dissenting opinion, arguing the state board did not go far enough to protect the public in the case.

Developers of the wind project have also recently said they plan to seek a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, for the project from the county commissioners. Under the PILOT program, Everpower Renewables, the company in charge of the project, would pay about $1.8 million annually to the county, or about $40 million over the life of the project. They did not set a specific timeline for when that proposal might be presented to the commissioners.